ATLANTA (AP) — Pat Shurmur isn’t about to express sympathy for the Atlanta Falcons’ ever-growing list of key players on injured reserve.
The New York Giants’ coach has his own problems.
The Giants (1-5) will try to end their three-game losing streak when they face the Falcons (2-4) in Monday night’s matchup of last-place teams. Atlanta snapped its own three-game skid with last week’s win over Tampa Bay.
The Falcons will lean on Tevin Coleman as their new starting running back after placing Devonta Freeman on IR this week with a groin injury. Freeman already missed three games with a bruised knee and last week’s game with the groin injury, so it was easy for Shurmur to study Falcons film with Coleman and rookie Ito Smith sharing all the snaps at running back.
“I’ve always been impressed with the way they move the ball and the way they score points,” Shurmur said. “They find a way to score points no matter who is running the ball.”
The Giants’ offensive woes continued in a 34-13 loss to the Eagles to extend their losing streak.
Freeman joins offensive guard Andy Levitre as offensive starters on IR. Overall, the Falcons have lost five starters to IR, including safeties Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen and linebacker Deion Jones. Also, top defensive tackle Grady Jarrett has missed two straight games with an ankle injury.
The Falcons hope Freeman and Allen can return this season, but each must miss at least eight games. Freeman wouldn’t be eligible to return until the next-to-last game of the regular season.
“It’s heartbreaking to see my guy go down,” said Coleman of Freeman.
Coleman said he has to fill the void so defenses can’t focus on Matt Ryan and Atlanta’s passing game.
“We definitely need to stay with the run just to open up the pass and keep defenses honest,” he said.
Here are some things to know about the Giants-Falcons matchup of last-place teams:
Giants rookie halfback Saquon Barkley had a career-high 229 yards from scrimmage (130 rushing, 99 receiving) last week. He has at least 100 yards from scrimmage in each of his first six career games, one off the rookie record set by Kareem Hunt of Kansas City last season. The record for most consecutive games with 100 yards from scrimmage by a rookie during any point in the season is 10, set by Eric Dickerson of the Los Angeles Rams in 1983.
Giorgio Tavecchio was signed by Atlanta to fill in for at least one week for kicker Matt Bryant, who strained his right hamstring making a 57-yard field goal last week.
Tavecchio, a native of Milan, Italy, made 16 of 21 field goal attempts with Oakland last season and spent time with the Falcons in the preseason.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning has passed for more than 300 yards in three road games, and Barkley is sixth in the league with 437 yards rushing. Still, New York is scoring only 19.5 points per game to rank 27th.
“You’ve got to figure out what it is to score, and figure out what the problem is and fix it fast,” said wide receiver Sterling Shepard. “I think the coaches did a great job putting together a game plan for this week and we’ve just got to go out there and execute it.”
BREAKOUT TIGHT END
Falcons tight end Austin Hooper has suddenly emerged as a top target for Ryan with nine catches in each of his last two games. Hooper, in his third season, says all his practice with Ryan is paying off. “You add a couple thousand reps in the offseason and after a while it just becomes like playing catch,” he said.
Giants co-owner John Mara criticized his team earlier in the week, saying he was disappointed by the second consecutive 1-5 start. He was particularly angry with Odell Beckham Jr. The NFL’s highest-paid receiver was critical of Manning and questioned the heart of the team two weeks ago in a televised interviewed. Mara said he wished Beckham would start making his news on the field.
It will be interesting to see how Beckham and the team respond on Monday night.
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